Price tag attack in Dora al-Kara.
(photo credit: JERUSALEM POLICE)
I am horrified by the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, and send condolences to his family. We read in the Ten Commandments last week “Do not murder,” meaning that the right not to be murdered is an ultimate human right. We must stamp out Palestinian terrorism, but not by rewarding Jewish terrorism. It is not easy for me to write these words when the blood of Rabbi Shevach has barely dried, but some are exploiting that blood to request that Israel authorize the heretofore unrecognized Havat Gilad outpost, where Rabbi Shevach had been residing.
In all of my 22 years of experience, Havat Gilad is one of the most violent of the settlements and outposts. It ground zero for “price tag” violence against soldiers, human rights activists and Palestinians, and in fact one of the places where the idea was born. A few years ago I heard a radio debate between Rabbi Avi Gisar from Ofra and Itai Zar, the founder of Havat Gilad. Zar defended the hilltop youth, even as Rabbi Gisar spoke in favor of the rule of law and against the use of violence.
If one factor has reined in Havat Gilad violence, it is the threat of state evacuation, as happened in 2002. At the time 46 police officers and tens of soldiers were wounded by residents and their supporters.
If Havat Gilad residents haven’t killed anybody, it can only be due to dumb luck. In 2006, Israelis beat Basel Salakh within an inch of his life with an iron bar in the Farata olive grove next to Havat Gilad. For several days he hung between life and death. He still suffers from pain and flashbacks, and can’t work.
I first encountered Havat Gilad in 2002, immediately after the evacuation. Farmers from Farata thought they could return and harvest their olives. However, Israelis who had also returned threatened us with a gun and dogs. The army demanded proofs of ownership from both sides. In 2004 we returned after the owners submitted a survey and documents. The army again froze the work. I sat next to Itai Zar for two hours as we awaited a decision. He expounded on his hate-filled world view in which “His hand is against everyone, and everyone’s hand is against him” (Genesis17:12), a reference to Abraham’s son Ishmael.
Finally, the grove was declared private Palestinian property, and the harvest resumed.
I warned the army that there was sure to be a revenge activity that night. We discovered in the morning that olives had been stolen from 47 trees.
Every year farmers arrive under heavy guard, and discover massive olive theft. In recent years this theft has reached 70%- 100% of the crop. One landowner has become a day laborer in his sixties. He can no longer make a living from his land.
One year there were relatively few attacks because the Samaria region commander ordered a ring of Border Police around Havat Gilad. However, he eventually removed it. I was with farmers from Jit on their land further away when Itai Zar and others pushed and cursed security forces and us, trying to get at the Palestinians. Eventually some Israelis did get around the security forces.
They threw stones at us and spat on me.
Eventually the security forces told the farmers to leave their own land.
In 2010, Palestinian land around Havat Gilad went up in flames, after some government action against the outpost. Some 250 olive trees were burned. An eyewitness saw Israelis setting the fires.
There isn’t room to go through all of the incidents in which Israelis from Havat Gilad covered distances to attack Palestinian farmers and those of us protecting them. Every Palestinian in the area lives in fear of Havat Gilad. Israelis coming from the direction of Havat Gilad frequently enter Farata to torch cars, break windows and conduct pogroms.
In 2007 field worker Zakaria Sadeh was in a car with an Israeli volunteer when a car emerged from Havat Gilad, chased after them and tried to run them off the road. I called the police. However, it was Zakaria and the volunteer that were arrested, after Havat Gilad residents maintained that they had attempted an arson attack inside Havat Gildad. Eventually, the police realized that this was a fabricated story. “Do not bear false witness.”
The Ten Commandments also prohibit theft and coveting. Itai Zar claims that his father bought part of the land that Havat Gilad is on. Whether or not this is true, everybody knows that new Havat Gilad structures are on Palestinian land, even in the Farata olive grove. There is a constant game of cat and mouse here. The residents want a new road or running water. Security forces frustrate these unauthorized designs mulitple times, but eventually the residents succeed.
If there is one unauthorized outpost symbolizing the ideology of “price tag” violence directed against everybody, including Israeli security forces, it is Havat Gilad. Even if the current government is not concerned about Palestinians, I would think that the defense minister would take into account the violence of Havat Gilad residents and their supporters against the Israeli security forces before rushing to recognize this outpost.
The message of recognition will be that systematic violence pays. Rather than fighting terrorism, authorization is likely to encourage more Jewish and Palestinian terrorism.
We must not reward Jewish terrorism. The author led Rabbis For Human Rights for 21 years. In September he founded a new Israeli human rights organization, Torat Tzedek – Torah of Justice.
This article originally appeared in Hebrew on the website Mako on January 31.